Nets vs. Rockets Recap: Brooklyn Rookies Shine Despite Defeat to Houston

The Nets entered Wednesday night’s affair with the Houston Rockets fresh off their comeback win the night before against the Dallas Mavericks. Looking to make it two in a row, Brooklyn would be without the services of Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge who were out due to rest. It was also the first time James Harden would be in Houston with fans in attendance since his departure from the team. However, it wasn’t a happy homecoming for The Beard as he and the Nets would struggle all night.

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It almost feels like beating a dead horse, but the Nets came out the gates slow yet again. Houston got off to a fast start spearheaded by Eric Gordon who scored 15 of his 21 points in the first quarter. Birthday boy Josh Christopher also caught fire in that first half knocking down three consecutive long balls which sparked Houston’s 37-point second quarter. The Rockets would open up a lead as big as 20 points in the first half.

Even with the offensive boost Cam Thomas provided in the third quarter, the Nets were still unable to come up with stops on the defensive end. Much like Tuesday night, the Nets finally woke up in the fourth quarter. They began the frame on a 14–2 extended run and were able to cut the lead to four midway through the final frame. But the Nets ran out of juice down the stretch and were unable to pull off another miracle comeback.

After hitting a clutch 4-point play to bring the Nets to within four, Harden would fade away when the team needed him to carry them over the finish line the way KD has done all season. After the 4-point play, Harden would score only two more points, both of which came on technical foul shots. He also hoisted up a pair of momentum-killing three-point shots much like in Brooklyn’s loss to the Bulls a few days ago. He’d also commit two costly turnovers. The last of which could be credited to either laziness or a mental lapse.

Either way, this was the perfect opportunity for Harden to find his groove and pick up the slack for his superstar teammate who has done it all for this Brooklyn team so far on the season. Although his stat line (25 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists) looks impressive on first glance, he only shot 25 percent (4–16) from the field and had the same amount of turnovers (8) as assists.

Despite the 114–104 loss, there were some bright spots. Most notably Brooklyn’s two rookies:

Cam Thomas Continues to Grow

With each game, the excitement and intrigue grow around Cam Thomas. Finally, a solidified member of the rotation, Cam has made the most of his time on the floor over the past few weeks. What Thomas provides Brooklyn is instant offense off the bench. His scoring ability was put on display in the third quarter where he scored eight of his career-high 18 points.

He isn’t Kyrie Irving in any regard but watching him score the ball from a variety of angles sort of reminds you of Uncle Drew. From the turnaround fades off the dribble to the contortionist-level floaters. All reminiscent of what Nets fans were used to seeing Irving do just without the fancy dribble package to go along with it.

Two of the plays that really stand out came in the second half. The first was a tough and-one floater in the paint. He catches the ball on the perimeter and takes two hard dribbles with Kenyon Martin Jr. right on his hip. Cam then sidesteps to create some slight separation. Once he sees Martin try and close the gap, he then pivots on his right foot and steps through the lane with his left splitting Martin and the helping defender. Cam then elevates and gets the ball high to avoid the outstretched arm thus resulting in a bucket and the foul.

The other play worth mentioning happened early in the fourth. Cam gets the ball deep in the corner. He uses his body to create a little space before taking three strong dribbles toward the paint. On the third dribble, he pivots and spins off his right foot, rises up, and sinks a fadeaway square in his defender’s face. You could put that clip side by side with a Kyrie highlight and they’d look nearly identical.

Cam’s comfortability will continue to rise with each game he’s playing meaningful minutes. Wednesday not only saw Cam hit a career-high in points but also field goals (7) and minutes played (31).

Welcome to the Show David Duke Jr.

In his first NBA minutes this season, rookie David Duke Jr. certainly answered when his number was called. In 22 minutes, DDJ dropped nine points on 4-for-9 shooting and collected three boards. Entering the game in the second quarter, DDJ was a part of the Nets unit that got them back in the game when they went down by 20 points. Duke’s energy would transfer over to the second half as he was also a part of the unit that started the fourth quarter on that 14–2 extended run.

The pressure he applied on the defensive end was a breath of fresh air. In fact, he had phenomenal defensive possession midway through the fourth in which he forced Eric Gordon to commit a turnover near the sidelines and which led to a frustrated Gordon picking up his second technical foul of the night thus disqualifying him from the remainder of the game.

On the offensive side of the ball, DDJ flashed his athleticism with a few above-the-rim finishes. He did struggle a bit from the perimeter going 1-for-4 on his three-point attempts. Ironically, his first points came on his lone three-ball. There were, however, two wide-open attempts from the corner he failed to convert on which would have cut the Houston lead to just one in the fourth.

Overall though it was a good first impression for the youngster out of Providence. Obviously, injuries and guys resting are why he saw the floor but all things considered, he did a pretty good job in his first NBA action.